24 Sep 2013

Book Review: Between the Lines: Identity, Place, and Power

The publication accompanying the exhibition of selections from the Waswo X. Waswo‘s collection of Indian printmaking traces the growth of Indian art in a sociological and historical context. The scale of the exhibition and its significance in mapping the evolution of printmaking from 1916 onwards makes this publication much more than a catalogue. And, as Jyoti Bhatt has aptly pointed out in the introduction that a book has a much larger reach as compared to an exhibition which becomes limited by time and geography, this publication becomes an important documentation effort.  

In this survey of Indian print making, art historian and curator Lina Vincent Sunish explores notions of identity, place and power that shape artistic creation.  The exhibition of prints (from Waswo’s collection) held at NGMA earlier in the year, represented 79 Indian artists from diverse geographical regions and featured woodcuts, etchings, lithographs and screenprints spanning an almost 100 year period from 1916 to the present. “The thematic distribution of works according to the interconnected concepts of identity, place and power originates from the desire to take advantage of the time span the collection represents, and the Indian histories that directly and indirectly played a part in the creation of the works.”

During this phase, the transformations in the Indian landscape have been enormous and the collection attempts to ‘generate connections of thought between artists disparate in time and space, and make them visible to a viewer in the context of an exhibition’ while rejecting chronology.  The emphasis is on exploring imagery and meaning in the printmaking practice of various artists.

The works by some of the finest printmakers are a part of Waswo’s collection and are therefore featured in the book.  One cannot help but recall the exhibition and appreciate the effort behind it.  From senior artists such as Mukul Dey, Haren Das, Nandalal Bose, Jogen Chowdhury, KG Subramanyan, Laxma Goud, Krishna Reddy, Somnath Hore, Anupam Sud, Bhupen Khakhar and Chittaprosad Bhattacharya to works by the new generation of Indian printmakers like Maripelly Praveen Goud, Kurma Nadham and Jagadeesh Tammineni, the vast collection presents a remarkable selection of prints across time, location and artistic sensibilities.
 

The afterword by Waswo is a fascinating account of his collecting journey detailing his passion for artworks on paper; a modest beginning which soon grew into an extensive and noteworthy collection.

One of the highlights of this book is definitely its readability factor and this book is as much for the lay person curious about Indian printmaking as for the art connoisseur. In a sense, a large format coffee table book would have perhaps done more justice to this publication.


Between the Lines: Identity, Place, and Power can be purchased here

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